Often branded as the heaviest of heavy, UK’s heavyweight doom trio Conan are about to bring the devastation back to Europe this fall, starting their Cold Blackened Violence tour with two shows in Belgium and playing Rotterdam venue Baroeg in November. The band from Liverpool is notorious for their ultraheavy sludge and doom sets. That they branded their style as ‘Caveman Battle Doom’ should tell you something about their intentions.
We at NMTH are about to set off to Belgium ourselves to capture loads of heaviness at the Desertfest 2019 edition, where we will see Conan frontman Jon Paul Davis perform on Sunday with Ungraven (“also heavy but less doom”). First we got in touch with Davis to ask him about latest album Existential Void Guardian, heaviness and all that is coming our way.
By Ingmar Griffioen
– Conan has been cultivating heaviness for many years now. What is that attracts you to this massive sound?
“I guess I’ve always been into heavy music, but before I learned to play guitar I was put off by how technical it all seemed. I still wanted to play, so started writing simple riffs. The emphasis has always been on how heavy the music is rather than how technical it is. It has worked ok so far, I guess.”
– What inspires you to deliver your sludge/doom in these heavy blows?
“I’m not sure really. I think it has just kind of gone in this direction without trying too hard and somehow we’ve managed to last this long playing this way. We must be doing something right.”
– How important is it to be (one of) the heaviest?
“It was once my main aim, but now maybe I’m less caught up on that. There are lots of heavy bands around now and it is better to be recognised for your consistency and longevity rather than something as temporary as ‘heaviness’, anyone can be heavy.”
– I’m very much in love with the artwork, which – for me – breathes a romanticism of ancient Viking / knighthood times. What is the story behind those covers and the artist?
“Tony Roberts has been our artist since the very beginning, he has done all our artwork and our merch designs. He is from Oklahoma, USA.”
– You’ve released your fourth full length Existential Void Guardian in September on Napalm Records. Since 2012 you delivered a full length every two years, suggesting there might be some system behind it: is it a question of writing, releasing and touring and back to writing…?
“No system really, but we do try and write often. So far we have been able to record fairly regularly and we have had a good rhythm so far.”
– Was the lead up to and process of this album similar to Revengeance?
“Pretty much yes.”
– Has the arrival of drummer Johnny King changed the studio process in any way? What is his role?
“Not really. We have worked the same way, but maybe things have been a little easier to put together.”
– Existential Void Guardian is rounded off with four impressive live tracks, stemming from previous releases like Blood Eagle and Horseback Battle Hammer. Why did you choose to do that and why these four?
“When we submitted the album Napalm said it was too short and insisted we added the live tracks. We didn’t really want to do it, but had no choice.”
– You have some history with live releases, is ‘the stage’ the natural habitat for Conan. Is it where the band thrives?
“I think so yeah. We really enjoy performing so I expect that to continue.”
– Lately there has been some talk about violence in movies like The Joker. How does Conan feel about that? Would you give in if Napalm Records would advise you ‘to soften the titles somewhat’?
“I don’t think we have any overtly violent themes, lyrics or album titles so I would probably think it odd if Napalm wanted us to change. I watched the Joker just the other day and thought it was awesome.”
– How is the relationship with Napalm? How does it work leading up to a new release for example?
“The relationship is ok, I guess. We have one album left and then we will see what happens.”
– You are about to embark on an impressive tour, titled Cold Blackened Violence. What can we expect?
“We’re heading out for 4 week of shows with Un and Sixes (from the USA). It’ll be a fun tour I’m sure, and we play in some really cool places.”
– We hope to see you at Desertfest this weekend, but no Conan in Antwerpen. In stead you will be performing solo as Ungraven. Please enlighten and tell us all about that project. Acoustic no?
“Ungraven is actually a two piece now. Myself and Tyler from Tuskar on drums. It’s heavy but different to Conan – less ‘doom’.”
Thanks a lot for your time Jon! See you at Desertfest Belgium (Ungraven Secret Session, Sunday), Magasin 4, Brussels (Monday 21 October) and Baroeg, Rotterdam (14 November)